I once heard the phrase “worships is when we allow the interruption of our internal preoccupation with ourselves.”
Let’s face it, if we are all being really honest, a large time of our mental thought is spent on ourselves. We constantly have thoughts like… “How will this situation affect me?” Or…”How does that disruption change what I wanted to do?” Or… “Will I regret not saying or doing something?” These types of sentence go on and in our minds like a skipping record playing the same song over and over again. Sometimes the record is played very softly and sometimes the lyrics can be deafening.
My friend Tom uses the funny phrase… “l am not much but, I am all I think about.” This why I love photography, and good storytelling so much. I see both of these actions as a form of worship for me. The act of capturing images and telling others stories allows me to completely get out of my head and I can completely focus on others. I am only tool that is used to tell someone else’s story. .
For me the act transcends the action when it has a higher purpose. Simply stated… when I focus on others, my purpose in life becomes more clear and this clarity puts me in a place of worship. #philippines2018
See potential not poverty. Recently, I have found a snap shot doesn’t satisfy me. I am no longer inspired by being an observer and just snapping pictures of what is happening around me. I want to be a recorder. A documentarian of humanity. I want to see and document truth! Not just my truth, my perspective, my opinion. I want to record the kind of truth that isn’t often communicated, easily captured or often expressed.
I know my vision, my perspective, my opinions can be and is most often flawed.
My experience is SO different then the people we serve. I am a middle aged, college educated, white male, that grew up in the suburbs and do to my parents hard work, love and support received more blessings then I will ever deserve.
When these Maobo women see themselves, they do not see poverty. They do not see weak. They do not see themselves with a hand out pleading to be saved. Their truth is that they are strong, beautiful, empowered women, wanting to make a better life for their children, families and themselves.
Are they thankful for the assistance we provide them by giving them a light, that can transform their lives? Yes. But…. they don’t want a handout. They want a hand up! The difference between the two is monumental. Assistance wrapped in dignity. Help tied with a bow of self-reliance. Don’t we all want and deserve a hand up to reach our next mountaintop?
As you view each face in this photo, please see their truth, not your perspective. See the hand up, not a handout. See potential not poverty.
Very often the brief window to take an important picture is only open for fraction of a second or less.
Many of the people I encounter on our Watts of Love trips don’t want to smile when I ask to take their photos. Most like all of us are self-conscious. I believe regrettably, everyone has one or two things about themselves they wish were different. “I don’t like my hair. I don’t like my smile. I have big ears. I need to loose weight, etc, etc.” We truly are our own worst critics.
When I asked to take this women’s photograph she agreed immediately. She didn’t hide or try and run away. She followed me right to the area I was snapping images and stood perfectly still.
I snapped a photo. Not much was reveled by her. I snapped a second image. Still nothing. Finally, I slowly looked slightly over my camera and made a big silly, grinning smile. And we both burst out laughing. Everyone around use laughed at us laughing.
It was the perfect moment. Neither of us where aware of any of the lies we tell ourselves about what we wish were different about ourselves. Instead we both enjoyed the moment of being silly. Being human. Being exactly who we were meant to be. #Philippines2018
This is Malon Ayao &
Enon Tawi Ayao. They have been married for 70 years! In the tradition of the T’boli people, it was an arranged. This will be the first solar light they have ever owned! I told this it is a late wedding gift from Watts of Love. It was so heart warming to see how much they still loved each as they laughed and played around as everyone watched me photograph them.
Last year my fraternity brother, friend and mentor tragically had his son. Harrison left way too soon and left so many questions that will never be answered. It was and continues to be a process of healing for his Dad family and all that were in Harrison’s life. Through all of our talks, tears and prayers I have ALWAYS believed “something new” would be birthed from this unexplainable loss.
On this current trip I have the great honor of traveling with Colleen Malany. Colleen also suddenly and tragically lost her son Kyle Braid in 1994. From everything I have learned about Kyle he was a complete stud. Great athlete, good student and a leader. Just like Harrison.
After Colleen lost Kyle she started a non-profit leadership organization for high school students. The program is dedicated to assist and train students in leadership positions to help guide and assist high school students that might be “suffering or feeling lost.” I believe we can all agree high school can be a time of great struggle for many.
Last year three graduates from the J. Klye Braid organization traveled with us, Blake Butler Colleen Lyons, and Jamie Terrell. This year we have graduates Ernie Yanez , Liam Crowley Miller and Blake again.
Last year Blake, Jamie and Colleen made a short video thanking Colleen for all she had done for them and the program. After seeing the video Colleen immediately told Blake she was traveling with him and Watts of Love to distribute lights next year. Colleen made good on her promise and is here with us in the Philippines now.
As I watch Colleen with Blake, Ernie and Liam I can see her sense of pride and joy. I can also see that each time she is near them she is in the presence of her son Kyle again. It’s been very moving on so many levels for me to observer.
As I was preparing for my day and listening to the song Here Now Beyond The Empty Tomb Just Beyond the City Wall, I overwhelmed with the thought of Kyle, Colleen, Harrison and my friend Seth.
Today I made a quick donation in honor of J. Kyle Braid and Harrison Rupp and asked Colleen to deliver this light to the person she selected. The moment she saw this mans she said…(continue in first comment)
The day before at this same waterfall location it was packed with people snapping selfies and talking.
This morning as I was waiting with my team, I slipped out to see if I could get the photo I imagine was held within this majestic location. I was greeted with something even better.
As the sun was breaking through the tall woods and a haughtily beautiful mist filled the air, I now shared this incredible location with two local fisherman. Afraid I was destroying their tranquil moment I just stood and watched in wonder.
Beautiful, still and silently serene doesn’t even begin to describe this moment. Gratitude washed over me.
After sometime just watching the water tumble and the mist rise, I nodded to my two unknown companions as if asking for their permission. They nodded with approval. As I left I realized I had received something even better than a photograph. #Philippines2018 #wol
A LETTER TO MYSELF.
Dear future Kevin, I hope you see now that all the obstacle, challenge and worries you encountered right before you leave for almost every Watts of Love trip were necessary for the rewards to be so rich.
Having to replace a broken heater and AC you didn’t expect does not matter. Money comes and goes.
Like a broken clock who’s alarm always sounds at the worst time and shakes you to your core, the challenges you faced allowed you to grown and to enter in a more compassionate way. Love is a muscle that always needs to be stretched to allow it to grow.
On the last of your waking days you are now more keenly aware that you can only take with you that which you have give away.
Favorite four from 2017. When I look back on my 2017 photos, I selected all portraits and my favorites. Each portrait on was shot in a different location…. Guatemala, Ireland, Haiti and the Philippines. I find photographing people in foreign locations so creatively inspiring. My sincere thanks to everyone who allowed me to capture small moment of their spirit and life in 2017.
Kayla Pérez works at a local gas action in Ricón. Despite not having any working lighting at night, the owner refused to close the gas station.
Without access to gasoline, none of the residents of Ricón could run generators at night or use their cars to help with the relief efforts.
A few of the locals told us that they could tell the gas station was open at night because they could see Kayla solar light illuminating the gas station.